To the Land of My Forefathers

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Europe » Norway » Eastern Norway » Oslo
August 19th 2009
Published: March 12th 2016
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After a train, a crowded bus, a confusing time in the Oslo bus station, and a second train, I walked out of the train station and got my first glimpse of Drammen. Drammen was the town that my great grandparents had left about one hundred years before to start a new life in America. I had always been proud of my Norwegian heritage, so it was exciting when my mom made contact with a second cousin who still lived in Drammen. Her cousin, Cato, and his partner, Mona, came to America and visited my family there in 2005. I was in Antarctica during their visit, so it wasn’t until 2007, when I met my parents in Dublin, Ireland, that I finally met Cato and Mona. We had a grand time in Dublin and became great friends. A few months later they were on vacation on the island of Rhodes, in Greece, and I took a break from my travels in nearby Turkey and met up with them again there. We decided then that the next time we got together needed to be in Norway. After nearly two years I was taking them up on their offer. I was excited to be in the land of my forefathers, at last.

Cato picked me up at the train station and took me on a quick drive around Drammen’s beautiful square and then we headed west towards his and Mona’s home just west of the city. My first impression of Drammen was great and I was excited to get more acquainted. We spent my first night in Norway getting reacquainted over great food – I instantly felt at home!

On my second day in town Cato took me on a surprise trip to a place in Oslo that he knew would be very special to me. It was a small grouping of museums on the edge of the Oslo harbor on the Bygdoy peninsula. The first museum was the Polarskip Fram, which was a massive A-frame enclosure that housed one of the most famous polar exploration ships ever, the Fram. The Fram museum was a place that I had wanted to visit for years, so I was giddy as we went inside. The famous old ship was sitting in dry-dock and there was a walkway that went around the ship at deck height. The walkway was lined with display cases that detailed the amazing history of the Fram, from its exploits in the Arctic with Nansen to its surprise voyage to Antarctica with Amundsen during his successful expedition to the South Pole. The ship was built specifically for polar exploration. Its rounded, heavily reinforced wooden hull, while not ideal for long ocean voyages, was designed to allow the ship to pop up out of the moving sea ice to prevent it from being crushed, which was the most common malady for polar exploration vessels of the day. I got excited as I walked across the permanent gangplank and stepped on Fram’s fabled deck! Cato and I explored the massive deck, stopping to pose for photos at the helm, and then we headed down into the bowels of the ship where we explored the living quarters and the stout reinforced bow. Walking around the Fram’s decks gave me the same feeling of awe that I had gotten when I explored Capitan Scott’s huts at Hut Point and Cape Evans, in Antarctica – It was an important relic from the Heroic Age of Exploration! Before we left the museum Cato presented me with an enameled tin cup that was a replica of the originals used on the ship and I instantly treasured it.

After a quick lunch we headed to the Kon-Tiki Museum next-door. The Kon-Tiki Museum contained relics from Thor Heyerdahl’s many expeditions on traditional reed boats. The Kon-Tiki was the most famous of his expeditions, which involved him and his companions building a balsa and reed raft with a square sail and a small hut on the deck and sailing it from Peru to Polynesia. His intent was to prove that Polynesia could have been populated from South America, which was a theory of his. His expedition was a success and the book he wrote about it was one of the most captivating books I have ever read. The book ended with the Kon-Tiki getting torn apart on the reef of a small, populated atoll, so I was surprised to see the original raft pieced back together and seemingly seaworthy in the museum. The Kon-Tiki exhibit was very special because they recreated the story by displaying the raft on a choppy sea of blue plastic to show what it was like on deck and then they built another viewing area beneath the waves, which was filled with life-sized models of many of the creatures that accompanied them across the ocean – The effect was impressive! The raft from his RA expedition was also on display, along with several other artifacts, photos and videos of his exploits – It was a great museum.

We left the Kon-Tiki museum and went across the street to the big Maritime Museum, which was filled with amazing exhibits on every era of our rich maritime history. There were detailed ship models and artifacts from famous ships, as well as recreations of different parts of the ships – We had a lot of fun exploring the museum. Cato said that he hadn’t been to the Maritime Museum in years, since it wasn’t one of Oslo’s famous sites, so he enjoyed himself.

It was late afternoon before we reached the last of the four museums we wanted to see that day. It was a small, but extremely important one, since it housed the most intact Viking ships in existence. The Vikingskipshuset was one of the most famous museums in Norway and Cato had taken several of my visiting family members to see it in the last few years, so he sent me in by myself to take a look. The ships were located in a restored church and there were several of them on display. The main ship in the collection was almost completely intact and it was massive. I was amazing at how well the ancient wood was preserved – It looked like I could have sailed the ship out of the museum had there been water! I spent about half an hour taking in the amazing ships and wondering how the Vikings managed to sail them across the ocean to America.

After the Viking ships we put Oslo behind us and headed back towards Drammen. It had been an amazing first day in Norway! At dinner that night we discussed Drammen and the different sights and activities in the area and we put together a loose plan for the following weeks. I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of the adventures to come marching through my head…

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